Thursday, June 7, 2012

Congo News Digest

Dominating headlines in Kinshasa this week was the Human Rights Watch report blaming Rwanda for the insecurity in the Kivus. While the papers condemned Rwanda for its support for the M-23 rebels, they focused most of their ire on the Congolese government, not only for its failure to protect Congolese, but for its refusal to clarify its position vis-a-vis its tiny but powerful neighbor. Le Potentiel called on Kabila to descend from his ivory tower; La Trompette decried the government's torpor. The National Assembly's decision to hold the security debate in camera was also roundly condemned, with Le Phare noting that « la rétention volontaire des informations sur la guerre de l'Est s'est révélée inutile ».

The international community has been surprisingly forceful in its condemnation of Rwanda. The Forum des As reports that the Belgian ambassador to the DRC told Prime Minister Matata Ponyo that Belgium denounces all interference in Congolese affairs:  « La Belgique dénonce toute ingérence en RDC ». The US issued its own statement on Wednesday, saying: "We support the Congolese government’s efforts to discourage further defections and to bring to justice alleged human rights abusers among the mutinous forces, including Bosco Ntaganda. These efforts are an essential step toward developing a disciplined and unified Congolese army and bringing a sustainable peace to the DRC." Even the Enough Project, long criticized for its refusal to condemn Rwanda for its past transgressions, is now calling on the US to reevaluate its relationship with that country.

There are signs this emerging international consensus has thrown Kigali on its back foot. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo gave an interview to Jeune Afrique yesterday in which she alternately denied reports alleging Rwandan support for M23 as "completely irresponsible" and sought to allay fears that relations between Kigali and Kinshasa were breaking up: "Notre relation est ancienne. Nous avons tout fait pour préserver la stabilité de cette région, et cela ne changera pas. Nous sommes toujours prêts à contribuer à régler le problème si le Congo le demande. Nous continuons d'en discuter."

What's surprising about the intensity of the international reaction is that this may be one instance in which Rwanda can actually claim innocence. The initial reporting on Monusco's leaked memos seems to have exaggerated the extent of Rwanda's official involvement, while the HRW report tip-toes up to but never actually accuses the Rwandan military or government of supporting the rebels, instead blaming "some Rwandan military officials." It does seem as if the support provided to the rebels was pretty amateurish: the troops Rwanda is said to have provided M23 consisted, apparently, of unemployed Hutu youth rounded up on one side of the border and dropped off on the other.

In the meantime, it seems reasonably clear that DRC government is at last getting serious about re-establishing its hegemony in North Kivu. The arrival in Goma today of Prime Minister Matata Ponyo, Defense Minister Alexandre Lubal, and Monusco commander Chander Prakash, coming on the heels of yesterday's visit by eight other senior government ministers, is a pretty clear indication of the priority the government is giving to the initiative. Reports on military progress so far are mixed. The units deployed to the region are earning praise from the locals for being more competent and professional than usual; but their battlefield success has been mixed.

With Rwanda on its back foot and Congo moving aggressively forward, I don't see much danger of the conflict reigniting the Congo-Rwanda war. It seems more likely that Rwanda will chose to lie low, sacrifice Ntaganda, and look to the long term. More worrisome is the danger to the Banyarwanda of continuing  conflict in the region. I can't imagine that the international community will follow up on this (Congo just isn't a high enough prirority), but I do wish we would focus on peacebuilding and reconstructing inter-community relations in North Kivu.  If we don't North Kivu could become a site of inter-communal bloodletting for years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment